Emily Dickinson

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Emily Dickinson

Post  Vicky on Thu May 14, 2009 11:59 pm

In today’s class discussion, we made the clarification that Anti-Transcendentalists do not necessarily not believe in transcendentalist ideas. It’s just that they believe there is a limit to the ideas presented by Emerson and Thoreau. Take Melville for example, he believed that there is a universal spirit out there (Moby Dick), but also thought that we should not spend our whole lives trying to discover what the Spirit is, an idea which Emerson does not support. Anyway, after reading Emily Dickinson’s poems I’ve come to the realization that she is an anti-transcendentalist because her poems contain both transcendentalist and anti-transcendentalist ideas.

In the poem that we encounter first, “This is My Letter to the World,” I noticed a sense of bitterness and rejection that emits off of it. “This is my letter to the World that never wrote to me” radiates a glum atmosphere. It is as if she felt like Nature was ignoring her. This is unlike transcendentalist ideas because Emerson believes that “[we are] nourished by unfailing fountains, and draws, at [our need], inexhaustible power.” Emerson held the conviction that Nature will never abandon us – it will always to support those of us willing to listen to it.

Similarly, in her poem, “I took My Power in My Hand,” Dickinson seems to be showing signs of self doubt. She describes herself as someone who is “too small” that’s why when “I [Dickinson] aimed my pebble – but myself was all the one that fell.” This is an anti-transcendentalist belief in that it shows certain skepticism towards unlimited potential. The poem is engrossed in gloominess and self-degradation, which are clearly qualities not included in transcendentalism.

On the other hand, in her other poems, Dickinson seems to express strong transcendentalist ideas. For instance, in “I Never Saw a Moor,” Dickinson recites that, “I never spoke with God, nor visited in heaven; yet certain am I of the spot as if the chart were given.” This reminds me of intuition. Dickinson felt that she did not need direct contact with the “moor” or the “sea” to know what they are. They are already a part of her, as we are all components of the Universal being.

"The Soul Selects Her Own Society,” which is another poem written by Dickinson, contains evident traces of transcendental ideas. The title itself reflects Emerson’s belief that we must rely on our own judgments on ideas presented by society. Do not blindly follow the principles; adhere only if you truly believe in them. It is an expression of individualism. Once she has selected her own society, she “shuts the door – to her divine majority – present no more.” Not even flinching when “an Emperor be kneeling upon her mat.”

Furthermore, in “’Hope’ Is the Thing with Feathers,” Dickinson once again demonstrates her belief in transcendentalist ideas. She specifically states that “And [hope] never stops – at all – …I’ve heard it in the chilliest land – and on the strangest sea.” Hope, therefore, is ubiquitous. As long as we believe that hope is there, it is omnipresent. However, those who doubt the company of hope will conjure a storm that “could abash the little bird that kept so many warm.” This is the basis of self-reliance and self-trust. How can you expect not to have conflicts with others when you are tumultuous within?

All in all, there are several other poems in the selection that reflect Dickinson’s transcendentalist beliefs. After weighing the anti-transcendentalist and transcendentalist ideas in her poems, I’ve reached the conclusion that although Emily Dickinson was an anti-transcendentalist is some aspects, she was still more lenient towards transcendentalist ideas. In other words, she was a “higher believer” in transcendentalism than Hawthorne and Melville were.
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Vicky

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Re: Emily Dickinson

Post  Angela on Fri May 15, 2009 12:44 am

Heyyy Vicky

You made a distinction regarding “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” that I did not clearly identify. By the soul or the inner Being possessing power and unlimited potential to create and take action, it is like developing confidence and trust in ones own Being, just like how Emerson talks about it in Self-Reliance. This, then, clearly shows a transcendentalist belief because they believed that every Being exists as a unique undividual with sepereate entities yet a common oneness with all due to the interconnection of the Being with the Universal Being or the WHOLE. This relates back to the conversation we were discussing on Proey’s Mod forum. It is the beginner’s mind and the channel of intution contains spontaneity and instinct that allows us to trascend physical boundaries. Just as you mentioned, we are components of the Universal Being, and this is where the ubiquitous hope that you talked about in the second to last paragraph comes in. There is unlimited potential and therefore unlimited possibilties to act and change. Therefore the universal reliance may be grounded on the aboriginal self, due to its pure potential and the life source from which all proceeds.

I came to a similar conclusion! Your analysis cleared up some of the points that I felt uncertain about! Very Happy
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